Thursday, November 9, 2017

Underdog Battle

This month is the writing challenge known as Nanowrimo. Since my first time participating in 2010 I have successfully completed it six times though currently only one of those books has gone on to be edited or published. The rest sit idly by waiting for me to get off my butt and progress on their respective tales. I hesitated to participate again this year because my schedule is so out of whack but ultimately I couldn't deny my need to create and finish the trilogy part of the series Nanowrimo has helped me bring to life over the last few years.

In the past I have had days where I would struggle to meet my regular word count. I have fallen behind on many occasions and only a handful of days was I ever ahead. Today I find myself even further behind than ever before however. If I were on target with my word count I would be crossing the fifteen thousand mark by the end of the day. Instead I am hovering around twelve hundred. It seems a near impossible feat to cover trying to not only make up the words I am behind but to also continue on and cross the finish line of fifty thousand words by the end of the month.

I would love to say I am determined. I am not a quitter. I push through adversity in order to accomplish all my goals. My history would suggest otherwise though. I have been known to quit when things seemed too difficult. The most important thing at this point is to know how I thrive under deadlines. I have come from behind before and I am hoping to do so once again. I have en entire list of edits and rewrites but it would mean the world to me to add just one more book to that list and begin the journey forward with a nearly completed series.

When I read the book No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, the creator of Nanowrimo, I understood immediately when he mentioned the need for a looming deadline to push people forward. That unused chart I haven't updated this month is waiting for me. It is a beast with teeth that grow with each passing day as it lays dormant, waiting to see if my desire to write or my schedule will be the ultimate victor this month. I have been an underdog before and come out on top. Tonight I will march on to see if once again my writing David will defeat the time constraints of Goliath.

Monday, November 6, 2017

What Helps

Recently I had a discussion about Nanowrimo with a fellow author. She is adamantly against it and from her reasoning and perspective I understand why. She doesn't think people should wait until a dingle month out of the year to work on things and that since it isn't a "real" competition and don't win anything tangible that there is no driving force to push people to do the writing they should be doing year round. I understand, I don't agree.

I am someone who participates in Nanowrimo almost every year. I understand it is more for bragging rights and a personal sense of accomplishment than anything but there is something about that looming deadline that is compelling for me. Unfortunately I have proven in several aspects of my life that self imposed deadlines mean nothing. I say I want to lose weight and as soon as I do I can buy a new outfit, then I continue to stress eat and either gain or simply not lose any weight. However having a set date and a consequence for not achieving that goal got me to my target weight a week early.

I cannot go to the gym and workout. I have to go and train. I need a half marathon, distance bike ride, obstacle course, dance performance or other planned activity to be working toward. Otherwise I find myself going through the motions instead of pushing myself as hard as I can. Writing is the same way. I know Nanowrimo has a deadline at the end of November and while it isn't a deadline that has any money or tangible items attached to it, if I miss the deadline I have to wait an entire year to try again. I can finish the book later but there is something magical about hitting the submission button and seeing the WINNER banner appear across your name on the site.

Like anything else in life, there are two sides. I know people that feel it is nothing but words thrown at a page to se what sticks and the books written within that month long journey don't and never will amount to anything worthwhile. For me I think the main point is don't knock something just because it isn't your personal option. I love being a part of the community and not stressing over every little word choice. I enjoy taking the journey with my characters because it happens so quickly even I don't know what's coming next. Whether it is Nanowrimo giving a deadline, yoga for clearer thinking or taking a backpack and a pad with a pen along for a cross country train ride for new perspectives, we all have things that work for us. The important part is finding the ones that work for you then using them to your fullest advantage.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November 3rd

Today is November 3rd. For most people that means very little. It might be a reminder to take down the Halloween decorations or put up the Thanksgiving or possible Christmas ones. People may start making lists to prepare for the upcoming holidays. There are shopping and Christmas card lists, meals to plan or other family obligations to consider. However for hundreds of thousands of people around the world November 3rd means something entirely different, Day 3 of Nanowrimo.

I have participated for years in the annual writing challenge. Some years I knew months in advance what I would be working on while other times I would pick something at random within days of the start. One year I even decided to begin writing over a week in and used a previously written short story as the base and expended it into a full length novel. This year was one of the advanced planning years. I had thought it would be a good time to work on book 3 in my Voices series. I didn't have a specific plot for the book but then again I went in somewhat blind last year on book 2 and loved the outcome.

The concern I have is time. I am currently working two jobs. Not huge issue since I have done that before. Yet, in previous years, I worked double shifts on some days and had others off entirely which allowed me to get up and go work on my writing for hours at a time. This go round I find myself working every single day on varying shifts. There are still doubles on several occasions but there are no days off. While I am working I am also fighting my ongoing health issues and projects at home. My boyfriend and I have decided to downsize our living situation and so have been sorting through all of our belongings as well as searching for our next home and preparing our current house to go on the market. I am also still working diligently on preparations for the charity event I co-founded coming up in February. All of these things together add up to a distinct lack of free time.

I know people say it is fine if you don't hit the goal, or set a personal one that is easier for you and your situation. The problem is I don't like to do things halfway. If I go for something, I go all in. I will not lower the goal just to say I did something. It is all of nothing and I am trying to  decide if possible Nanowrimo simply isn't in the cards for me this year. I suspect the rest of the day will be a pros and cons conversation with myself to determine which direction I will end up going.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sacrifice For Art

Sitting in a Facebook group for writers the other day I saw the same questions followed by the same answers flowing by that sen to crop up each week. As I scrolled down I was about to find a different group to lurk in when I saw a post asking how dedicated we all were to our art. What would we be willing to sacrifice in order to further pursue our chosen art forms. It got me thinking again about the decision I have recently made to downsize.

There are a number of advantages to living a more simplified life but one of the biggest selling points for me was that by saving time and money I could put more effort into my writing. My boyfriend and I are now working hard to prepare for an eventual move to a tiny house / RV lifestyle. We would be able to pick up and go anytime we wanted and the lower bills, maintenance and energy, as well as the flexibility would allow me to eventually write full time. That was all that needed to be said for me to start examining the cabinets, drawers and closets for items I no longer need in order to make downsizing easier when we reach that point.

Giving things up can be difficult, that is why we call it sacrificing. The fact of the matter is, for me at least, it isn't a sacrifice. It is a determination that something else is more important. I talk to people all the time who hate their jobs. However when I ask them, why not just leave, they scoff at the idea. How could they ever dream of giving up their paycheck, their benefits, their schedule, etc? Look for a different job with similar money and benefits and think about the long term effects of less stress by doing something you enjoy is always my answer. I am told I live in a fantasy land.

I have said my entire life that I would rather do something I love for 8.00 an hour than something I hate for 100.00 an hour. Those are obviously extreme pay differences and like everyone I would be willing to compromise in some places but the overall fact remains, life isn't about money to me. I want to be happy, do something that fulfills my heart and soul as well as cover my obligations. Keep in mind I said obligations though, I don't care about being rich. I don't need fancy cars, a big house, or flashy jewelry. I want to write, travel to see the world, and share my adventures with my friends and family. I am choosing a lifestyle which allows me to do exactly what I want. Some might fear sacrificing the current for the unknown but I cannot wait for the adventure to begin.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Making Your Point

I recently read a book about minimizing your life. In fact I stayed up late last night in order to finish it. It touts the benefits of simplifying and removes many narrow definitions of what it means to live a simplified life. The chapters are broken down in a progression of how the idea was brought to the author's attention to things he did to start his transition. It moves on to give practical advice on ways to remove clutter from your home then makes even more radical suggestion for downsizing house, vehicles, and everything right down to the applications on your smart phone. The last few chapters talk about removing intangible things like hours of television watching or frivolous items from your daily schedule. Finally it turns the tables and suggests ways to take your new found time and money you have saved to put it to good use.

I agree with the overall premise of the book. I have already put into motion a number of the suggestions into practice. My biggest problem with the book is the way the author presented his ideas. Because he is a man of strong faith and spending more time at the church was part of his motivator, the book comes across very preachy. At the end of the book he discusses using your newly acquired savings of money and time to devote to volunteering. Again I agree, to a point. He spends more than half the book talking about how minimizing will allow your dreams to come true, that you will have resources you never knew you had before, and how they can be used to fulfill your dreams of travel, spending time with your family, or whatever other passions you may have.

At the end however he proclaims loud and long that doing anything for yourself is basically a waste of these new found resources. Over and over he drills in his belief that time, money, and anything else gained by your newly minimized life should be spent solely in the pursuit of bettering others. I am not against volunteering. I spent two days following the tragedy that happened in my beautiful Las Vegas building a park for the victims and survivors in order to give people a chance to grieve. I work with a number of animal organizations and donate time and items to a local domestic abuse shelter. All of these things are passions of mine and I wouldn't dream of giving them up. I also have my toys such as skis and a kayak. I also go out with my friends and spend entire days in coffeeshops working on my own pursuits. I don't feel guilty about any of it.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that giving advice is one thing but preaching your ideas and trying to force people to see things from your perspective is entirely different. Strangely enough I think many of the suggestions presented in the book are wonderful and I am thrilled to be making changes to move forward in my goals. I will struggle to recommend the book however, because I honestly feel put off by the forcefulness of his methods. You can make your point without holding people hostage to it. Present the ideas and let people use them as they see fit instead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Changing Tides

One of the biggest things we have to work on as writers is our marketing efforts. This subject has been on my mind a lot recently following the Las Vegas Book Festival last weekend and then having a conversation about it again today. There is a sign on the wall in the heart of the building that reads "The Life Behind The Luxury". It shows some of the people that work in our hotel and casino and is an advertisement meant to inspire us to get to know the people around us that help bring the luxury to our guests.

One of my fellow dealers quipped "Maybe someone should tell the players that this is a luxury hotel". He was referring to the change in clientele we have all noticed over the years. We no longer see people dressing up to play cards or saving up for that once a year special vacation. Trips aren't about spending hours gambling or shopping for the high end toys and accessories to add to the collections of possessions when they get back home to their regular lives. Now we see people flood the casino with name badges from their conferences and trade shows, pool party fanatics in their swimsuits and sandals, and of course the sports lovers crowding the sports book every weekend to root on their favorites teams.

In the opinion of some of my co-workers the casino has fallen but I see it differently. I see the marketing trend for my location as it heads toward the conventions. We are a destination for meetings and conferences for all sizes. In that way the marketing is working splendidly. There is also the matter of people viewing "Luxury" in a completely different way now than they did twenty years ago. Those with disposable income tend to be younger and have a focus more on experience than on things. This makes those in jobs like table games dealing less needed.

Writing can be viewed similarly in that we need to look at trends like ebooks, social media marketing and useable swag as ways to connect with our readers. We no longer send newsletters through snail-mail, it now needs to be online and interactive in order to secure the attention we aspire to. I understand the frustrations of my fellow dealers and those writers who, like me, began before Amazon was even in existence. The fact of the matter however is that in order to stay relevant you must change with the times. I am working in both my writing and my day job to do exactly that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Saying It Differently

I was flipping through Facebook when I happened on a post in a writer's group. In honor of Halloween this month the person wanted people to post what they do for a living but make it sound scary. I told people I rob people as the voluntarily hand over their money. I manipulate their minds and drive them to alcohol fueled bad decision making before sending them off to beg for the chance to be a victim once more. As many here know, I deal table games in a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. There is nothing honestly sinister about it but it made me stop and think about the way we say things and how the words we choose can have a strong effect on how we are perceived.

I write a number of different genres and it can be difficult when I am editing a romance to work on getting a few thousand words in on my current thriller then jump to working on the synopsis for my historical fantasy and finally move on to t-shirt design with humorous themes. I can be hard to come up with different words to use but sometimes it isn;t the words at all but how they are arranged. Most of us have used or at least heard the phrase, "It isn't what you said, it's how you said it." That one little phrase could be a mantra for writers.

We are always so careful to pick just the right words to express our meaning but at times we forget about the tone of the story, the mood of the character and all of the non-verbal cues that can be used to help demonstrate our message even more effectively than the words themselves. In many ways this falls back to the term "Show, don't tell". It is better to take the reader along n an emotional rollercoaster ride and have them experience what the character is going through then to simply state what is happening. I personally prefer a combination of the two.

I am working on the showing part. Whenever I find myself explaining things to my reader I step back and ask if there is a way I can demonstrate it instead. I also do my best to find words in dialogue that lead to visceral reactions. I want those words to have wight. It is my goal for the reader to see the character driving down the highway on that windy, rainy night. I want them to feel the rumble of the engine as the character pushes the accelerator a little too far for the weather and the way the tires slip just slightly on the slick turn. Hear the howling wind outside the windows and know the heat inside the car isn't the air blowing from the vents but the white-hot rage as the guy behind the wheels mutters half finished thoughts of revenge. I don't want the reader to take an aerial view of this scene but sit in the passenger seat and grip the dashboard for dear life.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up and forget that words are a writer's friend in every sense. We have so many options when using them and it is fun to refresh some of those styles now and then.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Changing Lifestyle

I have participated in Nanowrimo for six years and as I prepare for yet another year of reckless writing abandon I decided to read No Plot, No Problem! It was written by the creator of the Nanowrimo and I wanted to read about the origin of the annual challenge hoping to learn something new. Instead I was simply refreshed on the things I have learned by participating. Seeing things like the fact that the time management you learn during the month long noveling adventure is something that can carry over into the rest of normal life confirms that I absorbed all the lessons of the program by taking part.

This morning I began reading the next book on my reading list, The More Of Less. This book, unlike the last one, has taught me several things already. The topic of the book is learning to live a minimalist lifestyle. I admit that the word minimalist always brought on depressing images of stark rooms, single swinging lightbulbs over rooms stripped of warmth. In the first three chapters I have started to see a new version of what it means to live minimally.

One of the things I took in as I read was a series of questions about what I wanted out of going minimal. What would I do for work if money weren't an issue? What causes in the world are important to me? Who am I inspired by and what about them would I want to emulate? Honest answers to these questions didn't surprise me. I have always been passionate about animal rescue and in the past few years I have become much more vocal on the subject of domestic abuse. My parents are both inspirations to me from their adventurous spirit and giving nature to the work ethic and desire to put others first, both have been my hero my entire life. There is no question if money weren't an issue I would travel the world and write for a living.

As I read through the book, I began to see how reducing my unnecessary possessions and having additional time could afford me the chance to volunteer for the causes dear to my heart. My boyfriend and I have been discussing downsizing our home to save time cleaning and upkeep. It would also save money on utility bills and other aspects of everyday life which could allow me to work on writing more. I have a goal of pursuing a full time freelance career and writing my novels in order to allow myself the freedom to travel and work on my own schedule. Going minimal is a path we are planning to look into in order to help make my writing dreams a reality.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

One Genre Or Multiple

Yesterday I talked about how I was advised when I began writing to work only on series. I was told stand alone books would never sell and I would never find a readership base without making people want the next book in a series. After they got done making me feel small for choosing to write Never Give Up which is, in fact, a stand alone book, they started in on branding. I was told it is impossible to market myself without have a specific genre. I had to tell people I was a horror author, or a romance author, or a children's book writer.

The truth is, that just isn;t true. I began writing a contemporary drama and the next book follow suit but then I got into a book I am still not sure what genre it is. I have a thriller series, a historical fantasy series, a stand alone romance, and an entire children's picture book series. I was told again I was making all the wrong decisions. Because I write so many different styles I was told I would never be able to find a brand as any kind of author unless I used a different pen name for each genre.

Instead of trying to keep track of my multiple personalities writing I decided to turn myself into the brand. My website just has links to all of my books, when the series get published the pages for each will have a dedicated theme. If I attend a specific type of show like a comic con I will only take the books that apply but I have found that becoming the brand and allowing myself the creative freedom to be whoever I want to be is much easier than stifling certain aspects of my writing.

I guess the entire point of the last two days of my rambling is that people give advice and whether it is meant to guide or control your next actions it doesn't matter. We can take what people tell us and add it to our current information but in the end we have to decide for ourselves what is best. Just because something didn't work for someone else or it hasn't been tried yet doesn't mean it can't be done. It may not work or it might be groundbreaking. The key is taking the chance, trusting yourself and allowing your creativity to find the home it's meant for.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Stand Alone Vs Series

When I first started writing I had one idea for one book. There was no plan for a series of any kind and honestly, I had put off finishing the book for awhile out of fear I would never have another idea after that one. As it turned out I had nothing to be worried about. I have more ideas and more outlines than I will ever have time to write. Creatively I am set for life.

I was so excited when I finished writing Never Give Up I couldn't wait to send it off to the agents I knew would drool over it, I was already planning the cast for the TV movie it would be turned into and plotting the perfect location for my launch party. After months of rejection letters and disappointment I finally got a response other than a flat-out NO. Someone asked what happens in the next book. I was dumbfounded. There was no next book. Never Give Up was not written to be part of a series. It was a stand alone book, that was all. When I decided to go the Indie route I had a beta reader ask me if I would be writing another book about Sabrina, the dance instructor from Never Give Up. I hadn't intended to but once the seed is planted it is difficult to stop the growth.

As it turns out there will be two books but I am not calling it a series. Both will be books that are complete stories on their own but chronologically will tie together and have a progressive storyline. Sort of a passing of the torch. The advice I was given over and over is that series are better because readers get to know the characters and begin to get excited about the next book coming out. It is a longer journey and the readers feel themselves being pulled deeper with each book.

I understand why series are easier for the reader to fall in love with but I have always had concise story ideas so expanding them seemed unnatural. I want my books to be as authentic to the characters as possible so if the book is one that stands alone then so be it. Breathe is a stand alone book and I have no problems with that. I have four different series, one of which is undetermined in length while the others range from one novel and four novellas, four full length novels, and seven full books. As a writer you cannot cut off a book meant to be longer nor can you force it to be more than it is. I know there are those that would advise a new writer to focus on series but I want people to know it is fine to write either or both. The important thing is sharing our stories with the world.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Finding Time

I love to read and just as I have done the last few years I have created an intended reading list for the challenge I always attempt but have yet to successfully do. There are fifty categories with fifty-two books on the list (one category is a trilogy). As I made my list I was in the middle of reading one book and when the list was finished I had only one book in my current pile not used for a category so simply added those two for pleasure reading.

Because I started making my list earlier than usual this year, and because I plan to work on improving myself as well this time around, I also have a list of thirty books on different elements of the writing craft. One of the books on that list, and the one I am currently reading, if called No Plot, No Problem. It was written by the creator or Nanowrimo and with that particular challenge coming up in a few short weeks I thought it was appropriate timing to read it.

One of the things the book mentions is finding the time to fit your writing into your schedule. There was something he mentioned that stuck with me. I have participated in Nanowrimo five times and successfully crossed the finish line each and every time. Last year I had to be done two days early since I had family coming to visit, another year I started a week late and another I was working two jobs. Each and every time I have made it to the 50K word goal before the deadline though so obviously it is a priority and I am capable of finding the time. He mentioned that this mentality can carry over into regular life as well.

When Nanowrimo finishes up at the end of November I am always ready to go for another challenge, finding more book shows, setting up time to get things done, and just being more productive in my everyday life. As the year goes on I find that motivation and productivity faltering. The deadline, as he mentions, is a tremendous motivator and I think what I need in order to stay on track and keep that spirit of productivity alive is more goals and deadlines throughout the year. That is something I am working on today. I have the books and projects I would like to accomplish but I need the deadline and smaller, milestone goals to check off and keep pushing me. It will be interesting to see over the next year if I manage to get more done or if I find myself sitting in the same situation at the beginning of Nano next year.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Creative Therapy

This morning I dragged my body from the comfort of the blankets and forced myself into a hot shower. It was the first long, relaxing shower I have taken in the past week and a half. Every other one has been a quick ten minute max, get clean and get out situation. I put a brand new blade on my razor, I massaged the shampoo and conditioner into my hair and wrapped myself in the fragrant lather of my body wash. I stepped out renewed as well as full of ideas.

There is something rejuvenating about a hot shower. Being reborn in that cloud of steam can give a fresh outlook to the day. It got me thinking about how something so simple can help when dealing with recovery either from being sick or stress. There are so many people that struggle to find ways to deal with the stress side of things and for me I am lucky to know I have creative outlets. I was speaking with a woman the other day about using art as a form of therapy. She runs a pottery studio and does events helping people do team building and therapeutic art including after the recent events here in Vegas.

My writing has always been my escape. Like musicians I find channeling my energy into creation can be a great way of coping with feelings simmering under the surface. I watched a video by country singer Eric Church as he talked about how something in side him broke the night of the shooting and the only way he knew to fix something broken was with music. For many artists I think that period of creation, where we lose ourselves in the project and can allow a different part of ourselves to take control is the best form of therapy available.

I discovered my need to use my writing when I wrote Survivor. As I recounted the days I endured under my controlling and abusive ex I found not only the nightmares and fear I had spent so many years burying but also a tiny glimmer of strength I never knew I had. By taking the time to share my story it was no longer my private hell or personal shame. It didn't own me, I owned it. What happened to me wasn't fair or good or my fault. I kept it hidden away for a decade and a half but when I decided to share it, to let the world know the true meaning of the "I'm just clumsy" scars on my body, it couldn't be in charge any longer.

I want to find a way to help others keeping there scars in the dark to find a way to show the world. Those scars are signs of being weak or defenseless, they are battle wounds that signify a fighter willing to defend themselves and what they know is right. Whether through painting, pottery, sculpting, writing, music or dance. There are so many forms of art out there that can help someone hurting to tell and show their pain in a safe and creative way. It is my goal to help develop such a safe space.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dealing With Tragedy

Ten days ago my beautiful city of Las Vegas was put on the world stage for something different than our exquisite food, dynamic shows and being a top tourist destination. The events that unfolded on the night of October 1st rippled around the world and put us under a microscope as the planet tuned in to see what the next development would be. With nearly six hundred people injured or killed it is difficult to find someone that wasn't involved or knew someone that was when you walk down our streets.

I work on the Strip for my day job. I see the security guards and police patrolling everyday, doing their best to keep us safe. For the first responders I will be eternally grateful. I was in the area when everything began and like most Las Vegans, as well as the rest of the world, I was glued to my television as the rest of the night unfolded. I not only witnessed, first hand temporarily, but live on camera, the carnage happening but I saw the slew of conspiracies forming from the onset of the shooting.

There were 58 victims the night of the shooting but there was a large, unmentioned 59th victim, the city of Las Vegas. We are all grieving, coping and finding a way forward as much as possible. I am proud to be a part of a community that has come together so well in the wake of such a terrible event. People waited for hours to donate blood, found money to donate bringing contributions into the millions of dollars for the victims and their families in mere days, we even came together to hold vigils and build a memorial park which I am honored to say I was a part of creating.

Last night I stood in front of the 58 crosses so lovingly made and brought to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. I read the names and wept, not only for the one I knew personally but all those that lost their lives and even more for the gratitude of someone caring enough to make such a dedication. The pain will live on and the world will forever be changed just as it is every time a tragedy like this occurs. I just want to take the time to thank everyone that has stood up for us. Thank you will never be enough for those that rushed in whether first responders or everyday people that just wanted to help. We are a city the world watches but until now I doubt anyone has ever known our spirit. I am proud to call Las Vegas home and look forward to doing my part to help us heal.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Popularity

Back in school I used to think there were three groups of people when it came to popularity. The first were the actual popular kids. They would throw the parties, or at least be invited. They were the in crowd. The second was the middle level. They were the ones that knew the party was happening and might crash it or not but they were in the know. They probably split 50 / 50 on whether they had ambition to move up to the popular group or just be content with who they were but, regardless, they knew what was going on. Then there was the last group. Some people call them outcasts but to me even outcasts have a form of known popularity, sort of an anti-popularity. The last group is the one that only found out the party happened when they heard people talking about it on Monday morning before class.

I always classified myself in the third group but the truth is I was actually my own subcategory, a three and a half. The popular kids would throw the party, the semi populars would know it was happening, the unpopular ones would hear about it on Monday and then when they were discussing it on Wednesday I would learn it had happened. Being in the loop was never something I was great at. Perhaps that is why I focused so much on networking as I got older. At least I would be in the know.

I see events happening in my author circles and contact people to find out how to get involved but those events are full already. I never knew they existed and somehow they filled before I had a chance. I asked a friend about one of them and got a response from another author that the event was full and it was being organized by her friend so I probably wouldn't be able to participate. Once again not being popular enough cost me the chance to do something I would have loved to do. I am still that shy, never quite popular enough to be in the loop, little girl.

There is a saying, those who can't do, teach. Well those not popular enough to get invited to events plan their own. I am doing my best to turn over a new leaf and use what I have learned from knowing the people popular enough to actually be invited and plan my own events that will hopefully someday make me and what I do known as well. It can be hard sitting at the loser table (I know, I have permanent reservations) but sometimes those that always out doing something have time to sit and plan something big. Look out world, popularity or not, someday I will find my spotlight.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Upcoming Nanowrimo

This Sunday will officially mark the beginning of October. Not only is it my favorite month of the year for containing Halloween, my second favorite holiday, but it is also that wonderful month where I get to start panicking about my plans for Nanowrimo and my preoccupation during the entire month of November.

I had originally planned, in fact up until a couple weeks ago I planned, to work on the first book in my new murder mystery series for Nanowrimo this year. I have title ideas, some character development and several methods for victims to die but in order to do it right there are a number of things I need to research for this series and I want to do it justice so I am postponing work on that series at the moment. Instead I decided to work on book three in a different series.

Nanowrimo has been a great thing for me over the past several years. It forced me to finally complete my debut novel Never Give Up, something that only took me eight years to accomplish. It also gave me relief from my intense fear that Never Give Up might be the only story I had inside me. I have proven time and again the voices will never be silent in my mind. I took a year off from Nano the following year but returned in 2012 to write Breathe. That is one I am still not happy with but hope to find the right formula to make it what I know it can be and release it in the near future.

After Breathe came one of my favorite books, Welcome to Syn (working title). It is the first in a seven book series and while it has sat in its original draft for the past four years I am thrilled to know I will get to rejoin those characters soon. They are some of the most inventive and truly fun characters I have ever written. It was the first book I wasn't afraid to be a little dark in and it allowed me a freedom I had yet to experience. The Syntel sisters will definitely be some of my favorites forever.

In 2015 I wrote Voices In My Head. The story of an author whose creations live inside her mind and tell her the stories while she simply acts as the medium by which those stories are shared with the world. But what happens when a character wants to be more than just words on a page? What happens when they possess a power that controls not only the story they are in but the author writing the words? Can she stop her own creation before he finds a way to control her too? Chelsea Perella is one I relate to intensely but through her book we meet Samantha Stiles and Chelsea's daughter Amanda. Samantha became the focus for book two and I am preparing this year to focus on Amanda's journey. If an when I complete Amanda's book it will be a full trilogy and while there is a fourth book related to the trilogy, those first three will be the closest I have come to finishing a series.

Nanowrimo pushed me to write and not make excuses. It forced me to face my fear about my own level of creativity and it has been a large catalyst in moving me forward as a writer. There are a number of people that do not like to participate, will bad mouth or look down on people that take part in the challenge but for me I can honestly say I wouldn't be a writer today if it weren't for Nanowrimo.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Veneri Verbum Inspiration

I was scrolling through the world of Facebook the other day when I saw a post by a friend and fellow author about the next book she is planning to write in her Figments series. I was ecstatic to say the least. I have never been one to read a book and immediately ache for the next in a series. I did not get into Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones or any of those series as books, movies or shows. I did not eagerly await the revelations of the characters or see what adventures would unfold in the next book. With the Figments I do.

I first met her in the Nanowrimo Facebook group, a group neither of us belong to anymore. We chatted and I found her entertaining, intelligent and inspirational. I thought the idea of writing a book about Nano for Nano was inspired and couldn't wait to get my hands on it when she eventually published Veneri Verbum. I have read it multiple times and not a week goes by that I don't recommend it to someone. Then came the second book, Beta Beware. I was lucky enough to actually be a beta reader for this book and finished it in one day.

I could only ever hope I was half as humorous in my books. She is now preparing for the third book and I am chomping at the bit to get my hands on it. I read her books with a ravenous desire most other authors fail to ignite. I have even found myself thinking about things she mentions in the books as I go through my own writing. There is a part in Veneri Verbum that mentions a figment with just one ear because the author mentioned the character pressed their right ear (I think it was right) against a door. Being that specific caused the figment to only develop that ear since the other was never mentioned.

I will go through as I write, and even more so as I edit, to see if things like that stick out to me. I would hate to fall through a plot hole in one of my own stories and have to answer for every decision I have made in a book or need to talk down the angry mob of characters over a death I saw as inevitable. I try to be fair to my characters, not in small amount, due to reading things from their point of view. While the book is humor and well done in that category, as a writer myself it is an interesting look into the world of those we create as we tell our tales and weave our way through imagination land.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Working It Out

As I continue to adjust to a new schedule for awhile I find I am missing things I was doing a few months ago. I know this is a writing blog but one of the things I miss the most is working out. It is strange the way something that has nothing to do with your regular ambitions can help bring in a needed sense of balance.

When I'm working out, and consistently working out, it helps in so many other aspects of my life. Taking that single hour out of my day a couple times a week can be felt in everything else I do. When I get home I am still motivated and invigorated. That feeling causes me to reach for fruit salad instead of cookies as a snack. When I eat better I have even more energy and can go out and complete my to do list making me feel accomplished. This feeling carries over into my sleep, making it more restful an giving me the right attitude to start the next day and the cycle continues.

The happiness and accomplishment that comes from that feeling is also felt in my writing world. When I am less stressed, more focused, and more motivated, I am able to more easily break down the mountain of to do work and move forward with my goals. I finish books, update my website, learn new things I have been working on and even can stop by here with a smile on my face to give an update on the goings on of my writing life. This is the cycle I miss but have recently fallen away from.

I am currently working two jobs and the schedule keeps me busy every single day. I do not get a full, complete day off between the two so I have to make it work. I find myself worn out more often and unable to concentrate the way I need and want to. This inability has led to a bout of depression I am working to overcome. My body wants to rest all the time which makes it difficult to motivate myself to get up and go do anything. My chores get accomplished around the house but it takes twice as long as it should. Errands happen, kind of, and meetings take place but I feel like I am only partially present. Without my workouts I feel unfocused. I am hoping writing about it here will help push me to rejoin that world and give my stress an outlet so I can move forward once again.

For now I am going to start with making that fruit salad and trying to find something writing related I can finish before work so I can at least feel like I can check something off my current to do list.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Raw Emotions

It is important when writing to infuse emotion into your scenes and characters. It can be a tricky balance to find but when it comes together it make a world of difference as readers connect with those characters on a deeper level, find themselves rooting for or against the character as well as letting their heart open to being a part of the story. As an author you want the reader to be raw when they experience your work and feel what the characters are feeling.

One thing that happens when we write those scenes sometimes is that we ourselves will feel those same feelings. We will cry when a character dies, or is reunited with a long lost loved one, We will laugh at their jokes and smile that evil grin when the perfect revenge plot comes together. Yes, emotion is a vital part of our profession. In our regular lives however it can be a debilitating force.

Today has been a difficult day indeed. Today would have been my father's 65th birthday. He passed away nearly ten years ago and for some reason this year is hitting me like a ton of bricks. I tried earlier to focus that energy into my writing but when the writer's emotions are that raw t can overpower the creative side. I found myself simply staring at the blinking cursor while a stream of tears rolled down my cheeks. Needless to say it has not been a productive time.

I think that is a lesson in writing though. There are times we just have to step back and allow life to wash over us. Not everything is fuel for a book. Not everyday will be a break through kind of day. Sometimes you need to sit there and feel, stop pushing and simply be. Writing is as natural as breathing for some of us. The stories aren't going to disappear because we took a day or two to be in the real world. They will simmer in the background until we are ready again. It isn't a sign of weakness or that pesky writer's block forcing itself upon us, it is us being human.

I have never been a fan of those vulnerable days but I am doing my best to accept them. They are a part of me and allow me to connect with things in my own life that shape me as a person and perhaps will lend themselves to a scene down the road. I am just trying to enjoy some memories and allow that emotional side to come out of its controlled cage today and understand that feeling those things, letting them take charge for awhile doesn't make me less of a writer but instead more in touch with my humanity.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Writing Gets In The Way Of Being A Writer

Following the post from a few days about getting organized I sat down today and wrote out a long list most people would probably find ridiculous. I took out the file folders for each of the books I have already written, or at least began, and made a plan for moving forward on all of them. I have editing, rewrites, sending out to betas, submitting to agents or formatting for self-publishing, cover design as well as cover reveals and book releases on the list for more than half a dozen projects.

One of the things that has been bugging me recently is that I love to write. I don't mean that there is anything wrong with writing. It is, in fact, the best part of being a "writer". The problem arises when I enjoy the creating aspect of the job so much that instead of taking the time to finish a book through the first draft and then settle into the process of editing (Something I am terrible at) sending off to my betas (another part that scares me) and then formatting and submitting to publish or sending off query letters to agents for a traditional publisher (Yikes!) I will simply set that finished draft aside and being writing an entirely new book.

It is difficult to make a name for yourself as an author if you release a book every two to three years, especially if you are doing so in the Indie publishing world. I fail to make my presence felt on social media as strongly as need be but part of that is because I have such little in the way of offerings. I am proud of both my books and I have more ideas swirling in my head than I could probably complete in a lifetime but I struggle with the following through part of the process. I just love to write.

The large dry-erase board in my office is currently filled with the to do lists for eight books. There are two books I didn't include at the moment though they have at least been started. Chocolate Covered Cherries in a romance I have battled with for a few years now and Voices 2 is almost complete for a first draft. Neither of them made the board though two books Crash and Combat are both on there. With the completion of Fish, Crash, and Combat along with the editing / rewriting of Sharing Strength I will be able to release an entire series. Sharing Strength is a full length novel with the rest being background story type novellas.

Voices is a four book series. It is technically a trilogy with a fourth book linked to the series by association as opposed to direct narrative. I am planning to use Nanowrimo this year to draft the third installment of the Voices series. One I am done drafting Voices 3 and putting the finishing touches on Voices 2 I will be working hard to finish the first drafts of the novellas in the Sharing Strength series. After those are all done I will start to hate life as I put my creative side on a shelf for awhile and work only on  editing and moving the completed books toward publication.

It will be a long road but I will be much happier when I am able to look at the books I have to offer my readers and know I have done my best to reach my potential more fully. When I am caught back up I will be able to reclaim my happy spot in the writing chair and then hopefully I can take a book from concept to publish much more smoothly so I do not get this traffic jam of manuscripts in the future.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Following The Plan

I went through my office today and realized the level of disorganized mess I have been trying to work in. I do my best to have files for each of my books but I found a pile of notepad pages full of notes that all belongs in different files. I also make to do lists from time to time in an effort to keep me focused but I noticed I have lists on half a dozen notepads between my office and the computer bag I carry with me. I have so much information but my failure comes in the execution stage.

I keep the files in my office but I rarely work out of the office therefore I end up carrying things with me and the files never become whole. I have calendars, lists and lists of lists around me all the time but there is no cohesive system for using the information. I am getting ready to begin a series that will require a good amount of research, interviewing people and figuring out a long term plan for some of the recurring characters. I need to develop a better system for working so I can stay on top of things and make sure the characters develop correctly and I can keep all of the information straight.

My biggest concern is my easily distracted mind tends to lead to a fully distracted lifestyle that can become increasingly erratic until I become overwhelmed. It is one of the reasons I have six complete books written but they have never been edited, submitted or prepared for publishing. I intend to finish them but I get distracted working on a different story. The next thing I know I am printing out the first drafts of half a dozen stories for the sake of editing but I see the amount of work and my mind finds something shiny and new to play with instead.

I am hoping putting myself back to work on this blog and keeping an now repetitious list with me in every conceivable working location will do some good in making me move forward. There is a great amount of potential if I could just manage to stay on track for a week or so at a time with each project. Right now I have created a plan broken down into individual steps for nine books that are somewhere between conceptualizing and editing so I can take it one baby step at a time and feel like I am accomplishing something.

In many ways I view my writing journey the way I did my weight loss. I struggled when I couldn't see any visible results. I gave up, got overwhelmed and found reasons to make it more difficult on myself than it needed to be. If I can just focus, use the tools I am developing and slowly but sure cross those things off the list I know I can accomplish my plans. I can have my books published and when I attend the next few books shows I can have more to offer my readers in order to grow my brand and reader base. Now if I can just remember where I set the pen down at, I can cross writing another blog post off the to do list.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Staying On Track

Over the past nearly two months things have been crazy. From making sure my house didn't flood from my exploded hot water heater to losing my sweet cat and finding a way to make ends meet when the hours at my part time job were cut simultaneously with one of the worst sick episodes of my life and a sprinkle of being in a friend's wedding I have neglected my blog, I'm sorry. I have decided to start earlier this year in my preparations for next year's goals but all it has shown me is how far from organized I really am.

I have managed to get myself in an odd predicament where I have several first drafts waiting to be worked on and several ideas wanting to be written but I am so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of potential I have ended up at a standstill. As of right now I have six books written that are waiting to be edited, formatted and released or at least submitted for consideration. I have another two dozen story ideas either as part of different series or stand alone books that are clamoring to be written and a few sort stories I would love to submit to different magazines, collections and competitions.

In order to move forward as an author I need to develop a newsletter and keep up here far more often than I have been doing but I am also about to take on a second job for the foreseeable future making my time extremely limited. It does not help that my understanding of the marketing subjects is just as limited if not more so, than my time. Plus I have the multi-author books signing for charity I help plan coming up in February.

I have always been scattered and do not stay organized well so I need to find a way to spend more time in my office and working on a scheduled list of items so I can continue to accomplish things and start getting books released. I have so much potential work I think I could do well if I am just able to take those precious next steps. It is my intention to spend more time here with you and share the triumphs, trials and setbacks as they happen. I would invite anyone that wishes to share their own experiences with my by replying here or joining me over at my website writingforces.com.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Potential

A few days ago I wrote about having a very productive day followed by a day where I did almost nothing at all. The difference for the most part was my to do list. When I got up on Friday I have well over a dozen things to accomplish but on Saturday it was down to only two. For some reason having that larger list of things to complete made the sense of urgency rise and I was able to get myself up and start crossing things off.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the all powerful To Do list would have that effect one me. I changed a few years ago from making New Year's resolutions to setting goals for the upcoming year and started getting a lot more done. Even this morning I saw a friend posted on Facebook about a few things she had gotten checked off her list and was moving on to the next item before settling down to finish the last task. It immediately made me want to check things off a To Do List of my own.

I have attempted schedules in the past, hoping they would get me on track. However, because I work part time and therefore have varying times I have to be at my day job, that set schedule does not work well. Instead I think I am going to try something different. I will be on vacation for the week starting tomorrow because I have family visiting but during that time I am going to make a list of goals to achieve for the following week and then I will be breaking dow the list to daily check lists according to the days I work and the days I am off. I am also setting deadlines for myself to see how much I can truly accomplish and if my will power is strong enough to get things done.

I have always been a person of ambition that fails on the follow through. It has only been in the last few years that I have found ways past that to complete a portion of the goals I set out to achieve. I battle the insecurities, the lack of knowledge, and the fear of asking for help for fear of looking incompetent. I am saying now that I am sick of it. I love the feeling of crossing things off my to do list and knowing I accomplished something. Whether it is something as simple as vacuuming my house or as big as publishing my next book, it doesn't matter. I have the power to be more successful and productive. Now is the time to see if I have the will power to live up to my potential.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making Characters Human

Yesterday I saw an author asking for help with their novel. The main character experienced a painful divorce but it was never stated why the divorce happened. The author was looking for something other than infidelity that the female reporter would have gone through the divorce and everyone that commented suggested things the husband could have done to cause a lack of trust. Ideas such as him being upset because she was having money trouble and not getting work or him keeping secrets from her. I was the only one to suggest that perhaps something she did caused him to not trust her and even if it wasn't true the riff between them was too difficult to over come.

The pain in the divorce, in my eyes, was that it was a misunderstanding but even though she tried to explain and he still loved her it was something they never were able to get past. I was the only one to make it not one hundred percent on the husband. The author messaged me personally to ask later where I had come up with my idea. I said after I read through all of the others targeting the husband and making everything his fault I felt compelled to come to his defense. I knew it wasn't my story and that I didn't know back story but it struck me how one sided everyone else's ideas seemed to be. A lot of divorces are caused by issues on both sides.

We have a tendency to see our characters as perfect and therefore when it comes to there being problems in the story we want to protect them and make it someone else's fault. The problem is that by making them a victim and completely perfect it makes them less than believable. It feels hard to relate to someone without flaws so it can hold back your book from reaching the readers the way you had intended. We chatted for awhile, the other author and I, about my gut reaction to defend someone I knew nothing about. While I have no idea if my reason for the divorce is something that will be used I know they are going to incorporate flaws into the main character to make her more human.

It was an eye opener to me even to have such a reaction. That humanity element is something that seems so simple yet gets overlooked in a number of books I have read. I am adding it to my ever growing list of things to look for when I write and edit so I can make sure my characters aren't too one dimensional. Perfection is good in many things in life but when it comes to writing characters I think it is more important to be relatable than perfect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Motivating Factors

One of the writing groups I a member of had a question posted to it today about making the most out of available time. It is a recurring topic not only on social media groups but also in my everyday life in general. For me, even though I could definitely improve in this category, it isn;t the main focus. Yes, it would be incredible to get up everyday with my to do list and go to sleep every night knowing I crossed off all of the tasks. Of course, I would love to say I am a living model of efficiency and management. Neither of those things is close to happening at the moment.

Last Thursday as I sat at work on one of my breaks making a To Do list that was quickly mounting to the unachievable level. At the end of the day I had managed to remember seventeen tasks that needed to be completed. Granted, five of them were things to do around the house and two of them were writing in each of my current projects, but there were still a number of things I had to get done. They included having work done on my car, closing an account at the bank, running a few errands, grocery shopping, working out and that was just the top of the list.

I got up at six Friday morning and headed to get my car worked on. I even took my computer with me to start working on the writing aspect of my day. I ended up only getting a blog post published before they were done with my service appointment but that meant I could go to Zumba in the morning instead of Yoga in the afternoon. I ran home to get my gym clothes and went to workout. Next came all the errands including the bank and grocery shopping. When I got home I made lunch and set to work on the cleaning. Then I sat down. My biggest mistake was thinking I could rest for just a few minutes while watching some tv.

I never wrote another word that day. I got up Saturday morning feeling every second of my Zumba class. I planned to go to the gym that afternoon but first I wanted to watch something I had recorded and have some breakfast. What ended up starting with good intentions resulted in lying on the love seat watching eleven hours of shows on my DVR plus a nap. I never touched my computer or wrote at all. I went from the most productive day in months to the laziest one all year.

For me it isn't about managing my time; it is about keeping my motivation. I get distracted to a level most would find frightening. I have a tremendous amount of ambition but I veer off course like it is my job. I keep hoping if I set a schedule it will help but so far that hasn't been the case. Instead I think I am going to try making a weekly list of goals so I can cross things off. I love that feeling so maybe it will help motivate me to keep on track better. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Thank You

Almost two weeks ago I lost my sweet kitty Puppy. She was my PTSD therapy animal as well as my fur baby and best animal friend. I have been struggling severely to feel anything other than her loss since that day. I had one day, this past Monday, the I felt somewhat productive as I added just under 4700 words to my two current books. That feeling of accomplishment was short lived but it was an amazing refresher from the incredible sadness that has dominated me for over ten days.

I have a number of bad habits that without constant watching I fall into. Most of them are emotionally driven so dealing with this pain has caused them to surface with force. The two most easily recognized is my lack of activity and my emotional eating. I don't have great eating habits to begin with and when I am feeling anything (I mean anything from intense joy to devastating sorrow) I tend to eat. This usually results in large amounts of chips, cookies, ice cream, cake and a personal favorite, cheese. There is no such thing as moderation for me when I am consuming for the sake of drowning feelings. Food is my version of alcohol abuse.

Just as that brief moment of productivity fueled a desire to do more leading to me cleaning my house and making a delicious and healthy dinner, my frustrations have a tendency to compound dragging me further down day after day. If I spend a day getting nothing finished I will feel more overwhelmed the next day causing me to have less energy and motivation. Things truly can spiral out of control so quickly that I feel like I am drowning without realizing I was even getting wet. 

Life in general I believe is a mind over matter situation. The problem is I am so rarely in control of my mind. I fight with my depression and stress. I get bogged down trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel and feel like I will never escape the darkness. I am fortunate that I do not make the journey alone anymore. I opened up about my problems a few years ago and have found a support system that has been invaluable. Without them I would have fallen long ago and never recovered. Through my friends and family I have learned to celebrate any victory and use that to push me forward for more. I have also learned to make small changes slowly instead of trying to tackle every issue at once.

Something as simple as eating better for one week and only focusing on that can make a dramatic difference. When I see those couple pounds come off and feel the energy that comes from eating fruit instead of candy it makes me want to be more active. I take that small win and add a class or two at the gym that I enjoy such as Zumba, yoga or water aerobics. The sense of accomplishment there gives me the boost to go home and quickly do some chores around the house and then I sit down to write just 500 or 1000 words. I reward myself with being able to sit and play games on my phone or watch some episodes of a show on my DVR guilt free because of everything I was able to do. 

The next day when I get up I remind myself of everything I was able to complete the day before. This is used to help me push forward and have another good day. When the good things become habit and replace the bad ones things are much easier but it can take weeks or months to truly program yourself to reach that point. With my health issues and dealing with emotional setbacks I find I fall down way before I get to the habit stage. It can seem impossible to fight back from that and it is so easy to just give up.

That is the other part I have worked to handle better on this path, setbacks. My insecurities and a large part of the conditioning I went through in my previous relationship make me feel that any small slip is a total failure. That stops all of my productivity immediately. It has taken over a decade of my life to acknowledge and accept that it is ok to fall. It is important to get back up and not let a bend become a break. Life is hard but if you can embrace the good times and use them to support you when the hard times bear down you can find that mind over matter I struggle so much with. 

Writing has been a huge joy in my life and having that outlet has saved me one numerous occasions. I cannot begin to explain just how much I appreciate the support of everyone around me. When I opened up with Survivor I received more understanding and help than I ever expected. It is still hard for me to admit when I am struggling but I am reminded day in and day out that there are others out there just like me. Together we are stronger than we are alone and we can accomplish anything.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Writing To Be Funny

Last night I was talking to my co-author for an upcoming book. We were discussing an entertaining story we had seen shared online in an occupational forum. We both work in the casino world as dealers for a day job and a dealer from another casino had shared a great come back line they had witnessed. It is often a subject among dealers on breaks as to what the best way to handle particular players / bosses / other dealers would be.

As we read through the story, laughing the entire time, it struck us that we may have a problem with the book we are writing. Our's is supposed to be a funny, snarky, sarcastic book but we aren't sure if it will come across that way or as a lecture which not only could but probably would be quite off-putting to those venturing into its pages. The problem is, after a great deal of discussion, we have no idea how to fix it. We don't even know if it needs to be fixed or not.

Humor writing is an art. Technically all writing is an art but there is a subtlety to the nuances of humor writing that can easily be lost for someone unfamiliar with the style. I have been told in person I can be very funny. In person however, it is a performance piece. I am a perform by nature and can use pauses, facial expressions and gestures to help the story along. Writing to make people laugh is much more difficult.

Many of the stories I share in the book I have told to friends and family. They have all laughed and ad follow up conversations but again, inflection can go a long way. Currently I am reading books in the genre of humor / satire in order to try and find some ways to help my own work along. Sometimes there are just parts of the process that are harder than others.

People believe that writing comes naturally for authors, and in many ways it does. Most of us see stories playing out in our minds, hear characters talking to us and have that nagging need to get words on paper before they drive us crazy. What may not come naturally is writing in a particular genre. I write drama. I have serious books covering serious and sometimes difficult topics. Writing to make people laugh is not a task I have ever tried before. I know the subject matter works from the in person deliveries I have attempted, now I just need to find out if it will translate to the written form as well.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why Don't I Fit In?

On Saturday I joined a group of other authors at a local indie book store for a signing. When I arrived I saw the author that invited me but I didn't know any of the other authors in attendance. Because of the layout of the store we were not all sitting together so part of the event was spent walking around to the different tables in corners of the store to talk about our work and meet one another more formally.

I never mentioned it out loud, though a couple others did, but I was the youngest author there but close to twenty years. It is strange because when I am chatting in groups online there is a range of ages. Because social media was developed in the last decade the younger generation tends to have a larger presence online. In fact I tend to feel far too old and out of my element when conversing online.

In person seems to be different though. When I go to events like Authorpalooza or Vegas Valley Book Festival there are authors there of all ages. Some older than me, some younger but all there for the same reason. At writer's groups I stand out as one of the younger attendees and at all of these events I am noticeable because I am usually more social than most. It seems no matter where I go I don't fit in. That used to bother me but I have found it can be helpful if used in the right way.

When I went to the conference in January it was remarked upon everyday that I was the social butterfly. I talked to almost everyone, I listened to stories, shared experiences and ate meals at a different table every chance I got. I networked with every group there and volunteered for the game night event. I wanted to interact and be seen. That is where I shine. It also is a trait that doesn't have an age attached to it.

There are so many author stereotypes but I somehow don't seem to fit enough for most people to believe I fall into the author category. It can be frustrating to be seen as an outcast in a group of outcasts. I don't dye my hair pink or blue or purple, I am not prolific with photoshop and understand the nuances of social media. I am a performer at heart and an extreme extrovert to my core. I don't fit in. But maybe that means someday I will truly be meant to stand out.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fighting Fear

I have discussed many times all the symptoms and effects of my PTSD. I still deal with several of them on a weekly, if not daily, basis with the biggest one being fear. I still get nightmares. I occasionally have flashbacks. Those aren't the problems I usually need help with though. It is the constant insecurity. I am terrified of rejection, of not being good enough. In fact one of my trademark moves was to snuggle with my cat before a book signing to calm the nerves then come home and cuddle with her again, either to cry about the failure or celebrate an unexpectedly good day.

That fear follows me everywhere and has the ability to halt progress on my work without me even realizing it. I watch other authors as they sit and write daily. They promote like crazy and attend signings all over the country. It seems they are releasing a book every six months if not more while I sit back and observe. Why not me? I have been known to whine. Why can't I do that? Why don't I have more books out? The answer is simple; I'm afraid.

Not counting the close to two dozen book ideas I have files for stacked up in my office, not counting the two I am currently writing side by side, just the books that are finished and only need to be edited and published, I am sitting on six books ready to go. They have been written, in some cases they have even had a quick run through for major editing concerns and a few have had a beta reader or two go through them. They just never moved beyond that stage.

I'm afraid. I have these big ideas of how things are going to go when I publish the next one. I can picture how I would incorporate another book into my display at shows and I have a list of nearly one hundred places to promote my books. I have excerpt ideas to use as promos and teasers. I even picked out tagline for some. I have ideas for covers. Some books have special swag that would be fun to hand out. All of these plans fall short though because I don't complete the process.

Every time I start to go through a book I get overwhelmed. Just as I have ideas filling my head with ambition while I am writing, I get bogged down in the possibilities of failure when I try to move forward. That frozen feeling at one point stopped even the writing part of the process. I am thankful I have gotten past that but now when I finish the drafts of the books I am working on there will be eight, yes eight, full books ready to be edited and published.

I make excuses such as I don't know how to make promos and teasers because I don't have photoshop. I am still very new at the publishing thing and I don't know how to format. I don't have the money to order swag anyway so why bother creating any? I can't afford a good editor and I don't want to put out junk so I should wait.  All reasons I have used in the past. The are excuses and nothing more. I didn't know how to create a website but through trial and error I have learned. I don't know how to make a newsletter but I subscribed to several so I can learn to do that too. I can learn to edit better myself to save money and just have someone go through to fine tune. I can barter with people to share our talents. It is all possible if I can just find a way to get through the fear.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Pushing Through

Today is my fifth book signing of the year. It is the first in the last few months and I was the one to arrange the first of the year but still this is the third of what I'm hoping will be close to a dozen during 2017. I should be excited. I should be feeling that combination of nerves and deep motivation to sit down and write. Last night I should have been tossing and turning with the constant questioning of whether everything I packed into the back of my car was actually everything I will need for the signing today.

I haven't even begun to pack the car. For the first time, maybe ever, I am struggling to get excited. Don't get me wrong, I love going to signings. Today's signing is even more special because it is a fundraiser for Alzheimer's. While I do not personally have any family of friends that suffer from this debilitating disease, my favorite author of all time passed away from it. Sit Terry Pratchett, we miss you.

I will be taking part in this event from one until four this afternoon and I am happy I was invited to join the wonderful group of authors that will be there. This will just be the first time I have had to attend a signing when my heart wasn't completely in it. Normally the week leading up to a signing it is all I can think about. I write every spare moment I get because going to an author event reminds why I love doing what I do. I pack at least a day in advance then check over my stuff at least a couple times to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. Other than getting a thousand words written in Fish the other night I haven't done any of the things I normally do.

It is strange how much losing a pet can feel like losing any other family member. When I lost my dad I went back to school, began traveling, even started facing some of my personal fears. I find that losing my beautiful girl Puppy recently makes me want to shake things up again and those feelings are distracting me from the normal writing process. I am hoping after I get done at the signing I will feel that familiar tingle to come home and work. If not I may need to accept that a short break could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Guess I will have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Saying Goodbye

Four days ago my boyfriend woke me up to tell me the worst thing I could imagine. My cat was struggling to breathe. I know many people will read that line and think, "It's just a cat" or "It could be worse, could have been a person". Both of theses are true but she was so much more than a pet to me.

A week and a half earlier I had come home from work to find her breathing heavily as though she were trying to get rid of a hairball. She settled and so I didn't think much of it until she began doing it again a few hours later. When we took her to the ER Vet clinic they found a large amount of fluid in her chest. It was compressing her lungs and her heart causing the pain and difficulty we had observed.  They were able to sedate her and withdraw the fluid but there were questions that remained. Would it come back? Why did it accumulate in the first place? Was my sweet kitty going to be ok?

We brought her home and for the first few days she sulked and avoided us and the other cats. Her anti-social mood was not completely unnatural for her but it still concerned me. Eventually she forgave us. She rejoined the family as we watched tv. She slept next to me at night. She would even take the time to make sure the other cats still saw her as the dominant force.  My baby was back to normal.

That feeling was short-lived. Six days after bringing her home she again retreated to quiet rooms like the office or the closest to separate herself from the rest of us. She was still eating and drinking, she did everything a regular cat does but there was just something different about her. Our regular vet told us Friday that the fluid may already be coming back and that we should keep a close eye on her. After work we checked on her but nothing had changed, good or bad. She was just still hiding away.

Saturday I spent time helping a friend with a craft project and when I got home she was in the office. I couldn't be sure if I was imagining it but she seemed a little weaker. I couldn't get that thought out of my head. I kept getting up all night to go check on her in the office. I laid with her, I pet her and told her I was there. I would periodically try to go to bed but I just couldn't sleep. Finally when I went to bed close to six in the morning she came in with me. She jumped up on the nightstand the way she used to and when I was lying down she crawled up next to me and purred. That is what finally put me to sleep.

A couple hours later my boyfriend woke me to tell me she wasn't doing well. We again rushed her to the vet but I knew what the prognosis would be. At 9:45am my beautiful baby girl passed away in my arms. She was my PTSD therapy animal, my loving family member, and the true love of my life. I have never had a bond like I did with her and now she is my guardian angel. The last day she felt like herself and I was writing I managed to get almost six thousand words down. I haven't written a word since. My heart is broken. She was my muse and my comfort. My heart goes out to all the fur baby muses of my fellow writers. They are our purest joy. I miss you baby girl, I love you.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours

Recently it seems that no matter what direction I am working to make strides in all I am really doing is taking away from somewhere else. I need to work as much as possible in order to stay on top of my bills. I have been getting more hours which is exactly what I need but somehow the bills just keep piling up. I feel like I am making headway with some and then a new one will appear putting me right back in the same position I was before.

I am even debating taking on another job. Freelance writing, work from home bookkeeping, even going back to deal at a second casino again are all possibilities I need to consider. However pushing my body that hard, especially the two casinos thing, has always led to major medical episodes which would in turn mean less hours and more bills. It is a n unfortunate catch 22. All of this creates a huge source of stress in my day.

I have three main ways I deal with stress, two are healthy while one simply exacerbates the issue. The  unhealthy way is that I am an emotional eater. Whether I am happy, sad, frustrated, celebrating, depressed or handling any other emotion my go to way to deal with it is to eat. Of course emotional eating is never a salad or grilled chicken breast, no emotional eating is sitting down with a carton of ice cream and a spoon then eating until you physically can't anymore or there is nothing left in the container. Sadly that is something I have done many times. I am working to do the other two instead.

The first health way I have of handling stress is to exercise. When I feel the anxiety building up I go swim laps, run on the gym track or take a class. I also try to motivate myself into taking classes in the mornings before work just to keep me moving forward. The second coping strategy is writing. Here again I find a conundrum.

I love taking a solid day at the coffee shop to write. I can get five or six thousand words written in a project that is flowing well. I can even get home in time to get a few chores done and make dinner. I am only able to do that during the week though because I spend time with my boyfriend when we are both off on the weekends. With the extra days I am working all being weekdays it makes it more difficult to get the writing done. I can get stalled and not accomplish anything for a week so I lose my momentum.

Now on top of everything else I am going crazy because my sweet kitty is very sick. I have four cats (yes I know it's a lot and I call them my crazy cat lady starter kit) and they are all seniors. The youngest is ten years old. She is the one I am closest too and the one that is struggling. Vets don't generally offer much beyond maintenance for senior cats and make every suggestion with the phrase "it all depends on how much you want to put her through". I am not prepared to be that much of an adult yet. I cannot make a decision that would take away my beautiful girl.

Bills are showing up from her treatments. I find myself worrying so much I don't sleep. When I can't sleep I can't wake up to go work out and I have to work so I cannot lose myself in my fictional world. I spend my one day off catching up on bills and cleaning so I can try to enjoy the weekend even though I have no money to do anything and all I want is just a way to get on top of things for awhile. Sometimes no matter how hard you push, there are elements at work you cannot overcome. Right now the rain and hail have found me but I will just keep fighting until the sunny days and time to write are back. Until then I would appreciate the use of an umbrella.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Why Not Write Something Happier?

In January I presented the first ten pages of two different books at a conference. I knew neither was completely ready but I wanted to get the feedback and face my extreme fear of speaking with agents face to face. One of the books was Sharing Strength, my book on PTSD. Obviously with the subject matter it is not a light and breezy book. There are intense moments, sad ones and some happy ones as well. Most of all there are times of healing. It is a book about recovery first and foremost.

Each character plays their role. Some have the support they need, others are praying for help. Some seem hopelessly doomed and others hide from those wishing to assist. I have known people in every aspect of what the characters are experiencing and the book is very personal for me. It is so personal, in fact, that when the books was still being written I took a sidestep to Survivor and shared a part of my past I buried for nearly half my life.

I am currently working on another book like Survivor called Fish. It is the story of another character in Sharing Strength and her story is just as tragic. It is understandable that any story that leads to a book about PTSD isn't going to be the happiest thing ever written but some of these revelations are especially emotional. When I was discussing this fact at a networking dinner one of the other writers looked me in the eye and asked, "Why don;t you just write something happier?"

He had attended the conference before and even won an Editor's Choice award the last day I was there. He writes everyday and felt the need to constantly tell me how I should be working, what I should be writing and how to move forward correctly. I temperamental, teenage type mind wanted to lash out and tell him to shut up. I don't write everyday, I can admit that. I make excuses and watch television instead of reading or writing. I go to the gym or camp for the weekend when I have time off. There are several things I do instead of writing. I am also not ashamed of this.

Everyone has their own process. I would love to get to the point where I am writing everyday, or at least five days a week as though it were a traditional job. Family will always be an important and I will always have things that get in the way of writing. Sometimes it is simply the emotions I am having to deal with because I don't write happier things. No matter what I will push forward and hopefully someday I will have more time to dedicate. Until then I am happy writing things that aren't and will continue to improve my personal process instead of feeling bad about my topics and the fact I don't work the way others think I should.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

First Day

Today is the Summer Solstice, aka first day of summer. I live in the burning dry heat sauna that is Las Vegas so we have been experiencing the weather of summer for weeks already but I am looking at the first day as more symbolic. I have been struggling with stress and depression for the past week and a half or so. Between medical problems, missing my dad as I near the ten year mark since he passed away, and of course writing realizations, I have been moping. I hate that I get to that point but it just hasn't been something I could power through.

This morning I woke up after having dreamt about my dad. I am still sad but spending that time with him, even just in my mind, brought a tiny semblance of peace. The medical concerns I am working to overcome and have a plan now to move forward. As for writing, I cannot change the past so being angry with myself about things I failed to do is not going to help. Instead I need to just look  to the future and try not to let those same issues come up again.

I am writing two books simultaneously, Fish, and Last Piece. They are completely different genres but both are flowing well. I also have about half a dozen other books that have already been written and just need to be edited and rewritten. It is a battle even I can barely understand to edit and rewrite once I finish the first draft of a book. I am going to finish Last Piece, and Fish, before I move on to editing but I am determined to get at least half of the previously completed drafts ready for cover and editing before the end of the year.

I have been struggling because I felt stagnant. As it turns out, I was feeling that way because I wasn't taking any of my books and doing anything with them. The process of editing, rewriting, editing again, designing a cover, formatting, publishing (or sending queries and submitting) then of course marketing the book can be extremely overwhelming. The alternative for a writer is to just draft and never get the satisfaction of sharing your work. The feeling of seeing both of my books go live on Amazon, then the moment of holding the paperback copies in my hands have been some of the most exciting in my life. I always call my manager (my mom) and share those moments with her.

I am taking this symbolic first day and the first day of a season I will accomplish my writing to do list and get back to that feeling of being a happy writer moving forward. I will finish both Fish, and Last Piece, then I will edit and start the next phases of at least three of my other projects while getting ready for Nanowrimo. I am excited to feel productive again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Opening Scenes

The wonderful K.M. Weiland posted recently that one way to know you're a writer is how much you obsess over your opening to your book. It is also something I talked to my mom about recently. I love writing but I feel as though I always want to start around chapter five. I struggle to hook the reader and draw them in then create the foundation for that big event that ignites the rest of the story. It is always that moment I can't wait to get to as I am writing because then it feels to me like the adventure truly begins.

When I read or write murder mysteries the death happens almost immediately but for some of my other dramas there are a few chapters that come in to set the tone, introduce the characters and their relationship before any inciting incident comes into play. For those books it is important but difficult for me to draw the readers in, make them care, then bring them on the journey of those characters as the real story begins.

When I sent the first ten pages of two of my stories to agents / editors at the conference earlier this year I was excited to get their feedback. I was curious about my ability to make them want to know more based on just those first few pages. Both people I sent them to asked me for more information but only one in a good way. The editor I sent Voices In My Head to suggested getting rid of the majority of the first ten pages. He gave me some ideas for improving the parts that were left but just as my mind wants to do, he suggested I start further into the story.

The second agent liked the story beginning. Her suggestion was more on point of view for the characters because there are so many main characters in the story. Just like there are a number of characters, there are just as many reasons that all the characters have ended up being who and what they are. I completed the first full draft and am now writing novellas for each of the characters to give the more in depth backgrounds.

I write my stories then go back and rewrite the beginning at least five times before I give up and call it good enough. The end is always on my mind. The characters talk to me constantly but there is something that holds me back when it comes to that opening scene. I am working to get better but, along with dialogue, it continues to be one of the biggest battles I have in my writing.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Living In My Mind

I saw a post earlier today talking about how the writer has found trouble being present for life when not writing. The constant thoughts, the perpetual wondering about plot lines, and the endless stream of distractions all originating from within make it hard to be there for conversations, focus on work, or even just enjoy time with friends and family. I haven't ever thought about it much but once I read through the post I realized how difficult I find many of these same tasks.

I am a casino games dealer in my everyday life so I am in contact with people constantly. There are times I have noticed though, that when I have players who either don't speak English or just prefer not to chat with me I will find my mind drifting off to whatever my most recent writing project had been. The dealing procedures are second nature so There are times I will go through an entire hour on the table but when I leave to go on break my boss will ask me a question about a player I barely remember being there.

I also deal a few games that are a combination of table games and slot machines where the dealer does not interact with the players so it is eight hours of thinking. When I get on break I find it difficult to join the conversations with my coworkers because I spent the last hour mentally living in the world of my characters. Even at home the conversations can be hard to follow because I need to bring myself back from wherever I travelled in my head. I will look right at the person I am speaking with but it seems I have to ask people to repeat themselves so I can focus on what they just told me.

I lose track of time frequently when I start thinking about anything writing related. Driving is another task I notice writing can take over. When I went down to the writer's conference in January I was tired but in order to cover as much distance as possible I put on music. The songs that came on instantly inspired a new story which I then spent the rest of the drive plotting. Other than stopping for a quick nap and navigating some intense weather I barely noticed anything besides the plot outline forming in my head. I have since added the file for that book to my pile in my office. There are almost two dozen files in the pile, most of which were created while I was supposed to be doing something else. I may need to find a way to curb this mental tendency in the future.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

I share about my boyfriend and my mom quite a bit when I blog. They are both active in my life as friends and support. Both have been involved and encouraged me for the time they have been a part of my life. I don't know where I would be without them. It is easy to see why I call them my partner / management team. The truth, however, is that there are others on that team and one is a person I rarely mention, my dad.

Growing up I had a tenuous relationship with my father. We loved each other but we butted heads at least weekly. He expected a great deal from me. I was fully capable of fulfilling that potential and achieving the things he asked of me but I didn't bother to try very often. I played sports but didn't want to put in the effort of practicing to be any better than I was naturally. I could have done well but didn't care enough. He wanted me to get good grades. I was smart yet I was too distracted / lazy to complete my homework often enough to get the grades he desired.

He never asked about my writing or creative endeavors. My dance recitals seemed to be nothing beyond an obligation when he attended. The one thing that never escaped my attention however, he did attend. He came to every performance I had. He only missed one of my hockey games in almost a decade and made it up to me by taking me to see a real hockey game that night. On a few occasions I would see him watching old VHS tapes of my recitals and smiling. He never knew I knew but I even caught him leafing through some of my short stories and poems, He was proud of me.

I lived to make him proud. No matter what I did, how much we fought, I always wanted to make him proud. I cried the day I finally graduated college. I broke down the day I held a copy of my first book in my hands. I even dreamt about telling him why I wrote Survivor the night before the release party. He left to watch over me from heaven almost ten years ago and not being able to share these things with him has always broken my heart a little. I know he is still watching me. I am sure he is still proud and on today, Father's Day, I am battling how much I miss him. He will never sit down and read the words I have written here but I hope he always knows how much I love him and thank him for being an inspiration to finally achieve the things he knew I was capable of.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Concise

Last week I sat with a friend drinking coffee and discussing our different writing styles. He began by writing short stories then eventually progressed to full length novels. Once he had completed his first full novel he found there was much more ahead for the characters and the book instead became a four book series. Now all he writes are series with a few short stories in between. He assumed everyone followed this same pattern of short to long and once they got to long they discovered the books are so much more.

I was the opposite to a point. Yes I wrote poetry (bad poetry I admit) when I was in elementary school and a few attempts through junior high and high school. I wrote a couple essay length stories during that same era but for the most part I have always been a full length writer. Nanowrimo gave me the challenge I needed in order to get going and I haven't looked back. It wasn't until this year that, as an adult, I had anything to do with short stories.

I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest, something I am hoping to do again in the coming years. It was difficult on so many levels I almost gave up immediately. The way it works is everyone that registers is put into a group. That group is assigned a genre, character and theme. Mine was a Stay At Home Mom, A Wrong Number, and Thriller. Once you have your assignment you have eight days to write, edit and polish, then submit it for consideration against the rest of your group. The top three move on to the next round where they will get new assignments and only three days to complete it. Each round the allotted words gets smaller as well.

Everyone that submits will get feedback, regardless of moving forward. I was attending a conference the first half of the competition. I had never written a thriller before so I was out my element right away. I managed to submit but it was right at the wire. I knew I wouldn't move forward from the moment I hit send and I was correct. I did, however, read through the feedback which was overall more positive than negative. The most difficult part for me was the word count. I kept seeing ways to expand, go further into detail, and inject description. I couldn't without going over the 2500 words though. As I wrote, then edited, then rewrote again I found the wording to be the challenge I had thought genre would have been.

I am still extremely wordy (as I am sure this post shows) but I am hoping to take part in more of the short story contests to try and expand my abilities. Being concise in writing is an art. I used to think it just meant people didn't know what to say or that they didn't believe in themselves enough to write a longer book. They are actually people with a stronger writing ability than I possess. To take someone on a journey in such a short about of time is incredible. Perhaps once day I will post one of my shorts here so you all can read what I am learning to achieve.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Celebrating Achievement

Today was a barbecue at my house. As a general rule this fact is neither writing related nor very interesting news however, because it was a themed barbecue in honor of a wonderful achievement, it got me thinking. Today was a celebration and it is important to make sure to take time in your life to recognize accomplishments.

I posted a few times in the last month about my support for my boyfriend and his journey across the country in honor of POW / MIA military members. Today the barbecue was to welcome him and other riders back home. Going all the way back to the Vietnam war, and in some respects even before, many of the military returned to more hostility than welcoming arms. They rarely, if ever, heard Welcome Home so those that take part in the ride Run For The Wall each year are constantly greeting each other with the phrase Welcome Home.

Today I had a sign up at the house that said Welcome Home. It is the same sign I welcomed him back with last week. As I was preparing food over the last couple of days I thought about his ride and the emotions that were experienced by everyone from the riders to those that watched as they made their way across the country. It was a physical and emotional journey that was undoubtedly life changing.

I don't claim in any way that completing a fictional novel is in the same category of the ride he participated in but it is a journey nonetheless. Whenever I finish a book draft my boyfriend takes me out to celebrate with dinner or dessert of my choosing. It is a small tradition that means the world to me. Much like the barbecue was put on to show the riders our support and appreciation, his treating me to dinner is a special way to show me he cares and is proud of me.

Some people think you can only celebrate things like getting a publishing contract or a major ride across the country. To me the most important thing is the fact that you are acknowledging the accomplishment for what it is and showing that you care. Achievements may be different levels and the celebrations may be as well but as long as you take a moment and let the person know you are proud and care it can make all the difference in the world.